Configuration of the Submission Module

Table of Contents
1. Preparation and General Questions
2. Overview of the Submission Process
3. Survey of the Configuration Options
3.1. Main Parameters
3.2. Topics and Topic Groups
3.3. Submission Types / Conference Tracks
3.4. Acceptance Status

The key component of a successful conference is the quality of the presentations. In order for a smooth processing of the submission and consequent evaluation and selection of new ideas, it is important that ConfTool is configured corresponding to the requirements of the conference organizers. This guideline will help you to understand this process.

There are very many different ways and formats how to receive proposals, how to evaluate them by different groups of experts and how to create the printed proceedings. Therefore, the guide starts with a list of questions you will need to think about to identify your requirements. It will then introduce the steps of a submission in ConfTool from the author's point of view, in order to explain the structure of the system. Furthermore, we provide an overview of the most important options and features. You can take a look at several examples to illustrate some typical scenarios and configurations here: Examples for the Configuration of the Submission and Reviewing Functions. Please note that all options and settings are also described online on the settings pages of the system. There and in the online forum more hints for less frequently required options can be found.

1. Preparation and General Questions about the Requirements

One of the key components of ConfTool Pro is the module for submission and reviewing abstracts and papers. This module allows authors to submit their ideas in different digital formats, reviewers to enter their evaluations online, and organizers to create the schedule and export data for proceedings.

A “typical” workflow is as follows: In a given time frame, users can submit different kinds of proposals (e.g. abstracts, posters or full papers) as defined by the conference organizers. Submitted abstracts and/or uploaded files are then usually assigned to experts for peer-reviewing. Chairs or a program committee then decides about acceptance. Accepted submissions can be revised and final versions of these submissions can be uploaded by the authors. Finally, the organizers can create the conference schedule based on the accepted submissions. These submissions can be exported to be included in the printed proceedings. There are many other possible workflows for this process, depending on the kind, area and size of the event.

As you can see from this brief description, the submission process is closely connected to the review process, the creation of the conference agenda and the proceedings (book of abstracts). Before you start with the set-up of ConfTool, you should have finalized your general plans and time schedule for these tasks of the conference organization. 

Some questions that determine the configuration are:

  • Think about time frame and deadlines of your conference for the submission and review process and the creation of the schedule and the proceedings. It is always advisable to consider buffers of 2-3 weeks if authors, reviewers or organizers cannot keep deadlines.
  • What kind of submission format do you need? Does your conference have different types of submissions, e.g. poster, full paper, workshop proposal? These types have to be represented in the system. 
  • How many submission and review phases does your conference have? For instance, do the chairs directly decide about acceptance, is one peer-reviewing phase enough or will authors of accepted abstracts be invited to submit full papers that have to be peer-reviewed again? 
  • Will authors of accepted submissions get the chance to upload camera-ready copies for the printed proceedings? You can save a lot of work if you prepare good templates and ask authors to upload the files in different formats (e.g. a PDF file to see how the document should look like and DOC file to be able to edit the document, add headers and page numbers etc.)
  • What are the main conference topics? A sensible selection of topics can facilitate review assignments significantly. 
  • How and when will the program committee and the reviewers be selected and invited? You can import lists of persons directly as ConfTool users if they are e.g. already established members of the program committee or import them as invitees if you want them to confirm their interest first.
  • Do you require online communication options for reviewers or PC members? Do you have Meta-Reviewers (Expert Reviewers) supervising the review process of selected papers? Several different methods are supported, but you should decide about a model early.
  • How will the final decision regarding acceptance be made and by whom?
  • What are the requirements for the conference flyers and proceedings? This should be considered when setting up the submission form so authors can enter all needed data online, and you do not have to gather it from uploaded files.
  • Does your conference have sub-events like tracks, strands or workshops with separate reviewing committees? Then you will probably need the “Track-Chair-Module” of ConfTool Pro (an additional license fee applies).

2. Overview of the Submission Process

The submission process in ConfTool consists of several steps. Many parameters of these steps can be configured by the conference organizers. Please refer also to: Instructions for Submitting Authors.

  • Every author begins with the creation of a personal user account. It allows him or her to use the ConfTool system, to update their submissions and to access the review results. Here, authors enter their personal contact information and their account data. The same account will be used if the person is also a reviewer or wants to register for conference attendance.
Image 1: New user registration page - Click on image to enlarge
  • Authors will be led to the screen “Your Submissions”. It lists the available submission types / conference tracks. The options and wording shown here are defined by the conference organizers in:
    Overview => Settings => Manage Submission Types / Conference Tracks 
    Every type or track can have different deadlines and requirements (see section 3.3 for more details). After selecting the preferred
    conference track or submission type, authors proceed with their submission. 
Image 2: Submission page for authors - Click on image to enlarge
  • The first submission page asks them to enter the general data (meta-data) about their submission. These are e.g. the list of authors and their organizations as well as title, abstract, and topics of their proposal. Some parameters are always required (like the title or the names of the authors), others can be set by the organizers.
Image 3: Submission form example - Click on image to enlarge
  • The second page shows the entered information for verification. This page also allows authors to upload files, as configured by the organizers. The required number of uploads (0 to 3) as well as the supported file types are defined for each submission type separately. 
Image 4: Submission form verification and upload - Click on image to enlarge

After upload and confirmation of the entered data, the author is returned to the page “Your Submissions” and will see all proposals already submitted, followed by the list of conference tracks / submission types. The author can now submit another proposal, update the existing proposals or also withdraw them. Authors can return to this page any time after, when they log in to their account. Later, the submission page will give them access to the review results and they will also be able to upload their final versions, if this option has been activated by the organizers.

3. Survey of the Configuration Options

All parameters for setup of the submission and reviewing module can be reached from the “Settings” page. The following chapters will provide an overview of the most important options and concepts. You will find all relevant options for the submission module in the section “Conference Tracks, Contribution Types and Topics”.

3.1 Main Parameters

We start with the “Main Settings for Paper and Abstract Submission”. This page allows you to set some global parameters. You can probably keep the default values for most of these parameters, especially if you are not familiar with the described options.

In the first section “Display Options”, enter the information you want to pass on to the users on their submission page as Introductory and Footer texts. Keep it short and simple and, preferably, post a link to your website if you want to provide detailed information regarding the submissions process, templates and required formats. 

The option “Show Organization of Submitting Author” enables the display of the organization of the submitting author in the submission overview and review result lists. It is primarily useful for commercial conferences in which the organization or company is important to know for organizers and administrators. 

You can define “Special Conditions for Paper Submission”, e.g. limit submission to registered participants (who have already paid) or restrain the submission to users who are already presenters. If necessary, you can also limit the number of submissions per author.

If you have the Track-Chair Module installed, you will be able to access the option “Assign Topics to Tracks”. This is required if all tracks / submission types do not share the same topics. Please refer to Track-Chair Module: Assigning Persons, Topics and Submission Formats to Tracks for further information. If you activate this option, a new menu item will appear and every topic can (and has to) be assigned to tracks here: 
Overview => Settings => Assign Topics to Conference Tracks.

Image 5: Assign topics to conference tracks - Click on image to enlarge

The following section “Defaults for Uploads and Downloads” allows you to define the names, appendices, maximum size and allowed types for files. Choose from a wide set of options for the “Compose format of generated file names”. These generated file names will appear in the list of submissions (Overview => Submissions & Reviews => List of Submissions) and in the conference agenda, which you can make available for public view. Therefore, be diligent when setting the options for file names. You can update these settings at any time. The “File appendix for multiple uploads” defines appendices for file names if several files are uploaded per submission. They will be appended to all generated file names. For both options please use alphanumeric characters only, as some computers might have problems with special characters in file names.

“Supported file types” defines the extensions of file names which will be allowed for uploads. These are the global settings and you may define different file types for each upload for each track / submission type. If you do not enter specific file types there, the default settings will be used.

Finally, set all the necessary deadlines for submission of abstracts, editing of submission details, upload of papers, results of the reviewing process and final upload of accepted contributions. You can set alternative deadlines per contribution type / track and you can always update deadlines or deactivate a phase by unchecking the box “Activated in above period”. Please note that you can access all deadlines in: 
Overview => Settings => Conference Phases and Deadlines

3.2. Topics and Topic Groups

A word regarding the use of topics in ConfTool: Authors choose them to classify their submissions and reviewers use them to state their areas of expertise. Submissions will be assigned to reviewers by matching topics, therefore we strongly recommend using topics for all conferences with a peer-review process.

Usually, organizers define one set of topics and a maximum number of topics to be selected. However, if you have different groups of topics to select from, enable the "Expert Settings" on the bottom of the page (cogwheel). Now, in the section "Form Settings for all Submissions", activate the newly available option "Enable Topic Groups". You then will be able to define several titles for different categories / groups of topics and assign each of your topics to one of those groups. The maximum number of topics can be set for each group independently.

To define these topic groups, please proceed on the page: 
Overview => Settings => Manage Topic Groups
Choose a Short Title (used for internal processes only) and a Title for each Topic Group. You might want to add an Additional Information that will be shown above the list of topics to the authors. Within the group, you can also define the number of topics that have to be chosen by authors on the submission form. Finally, decide whether you want this group to be shown to reviewers and program committee members by choosing one of the options for “Show to Reviewers and PC Members?”.

Continue by defining the topics on the page: 
Overview => Settings => Manage Topics.
First assign any new topic to a topic group, if applicable. Select the type of topic from several choices: the normal text option will produce the topic name with a checkbox next to it. The bold text option will produce the topic name in bold letters with a checkbox. The heading option should be chosen if you don’t want this topic to be selectable by a user and if you want this topic to serve as a heading for other topics. Finally, enter the topic title which will be shown in front of a checkbox (or serve as a heading). 

Image 6: Example submission form with 4 topics - Click on image to enlarge
Image 7: Example submission form with two topic groups - Click on image to enlarge
Image 8: Access to the priority topic selection for reviewers - Click on image to enlarge
Image 9: Reviewers can select their priority topics from the list of topics - Click on image to enlarge
Image 10: Matching topics help assigning reviewers to submissions - Click on image to enlarge

3.3. Submission Types / Conference Tracks

The following section “Manage Submission Types / Conference Tracks” defines the structure of the page “Your Submissions” for authors. Submission Types / Tracks are used for two different purposes:

  • If you have different types of submissions, e.g. poster, full-paper, paper for workshop proposal, and the decision about acceptance is made within one committee, you use this to create these submission types.
Image 11: Submission Types - Click on image to enlarge

  • If your conference is organized into thematic tracks, streams or networks, this feature is used to represent the structure of your conference. If these tracks have different program committees and/or chairs, the Track-Chair Module of ConfTool Pro is required. See Track-Chair-Module: Assigning Persons to Tracks for more information.
    If you need to sub-categorize the tracks into different submission types you can do so by creating additional tracks like “Track 1: Submission Type A”, “Track 1: Submission Type B”, “Track 2: Submission Type A” and “Track 2, Submission Type B” or you can make use of the option “Enable Selection of the 'Submission Format'". With this option enabled, authors can pick a track as well as a submission format. You can activate this option here: 
    Overview => Settings => Main Settings for Paper and Abstract Submission.
    For more information, please see this forum entry: How to split thematic tracks into different submission formats?
Image 12 - Conference Tracks / Stream / Strand - Click on image to enlarge

The Submission Types or Conference Tracks are one of the main concepts of ConfTool and represent the thematic structure of your event. Please proceed here: 
Overview => Settings => Manage Submission Types / Conference Tracks

Start by giving each type or track a full titleadditional information for the submission details and add an e-mail address of the Chair. This information will be shown to the authors on the page “Your Submissions”. 

The short title is used for internal purposes and can also be considered for the generated file name. We recommend using a unique abbreviation or ID.

Continue to define the parameters in the section “Settings for the Submissions Form of this Type or Track”. Per default, the “E-mail Addresses of All Co-authors” have to be entered by the submitting author, the reason being that ConfTool uses these e-mail addresses to identify users as co-authors in order to give them access to their contributions and to invitation letters, confirmations etc. If you want to disable this function, enable the "Expert Settings" at the bottom of the page and change the setting for this option.

We also recommend asking for the organizations of the authors, as this information can be used for the conference agenda and proceedings. It is easier to process this information if entered in the submission form than to extract it from submitted files manually.

Regarding the “Presenting Author”, you have several options. Choose “No” if you do not require this information for your conference agenda. If you want to identify the presenters of the conference, choose “Yes” for this option. You can also allow authors to select several presenters. Please note that the submitting authors of accepted contributions are also considered as potential presenters in ConfTool.

For most conferences, the “Abstract” is important, as it comprises the ideas of the proposal in a condensed way. It can for instance be used in the conference agenda or a book of abstracts, even if you ask authors to upload their proposals as files. The abstract is enabled by default and you can choose from three different settings: plain text without formatting, WYSIWYG-editor and simple formatting, which will allow bold and italic characters and simple lists. Limit the length of the abstract, if needed, using the option “Maximum length for abstract” and by selecting a maximum number of words or characters (including spaces) allowed to be entered in this field.

For the option “Topics” you can give users the choice to pick mandatorily at least one or several topics. If you have enabled topic groups you should select "Topic Groups: List topics as defined by their topic groups" here. If you select one of the other options, only topics not assigned to any topic group yet will be displayed on the submission form. 

You can ask users to enter “Keywords” as an option or requirement and allow users to signal that a submission is a “Student Contribution”. Furthermore, entering the “Bibliography” can be made either obligatory or mandatory, or it can be fully disabled.

For further information regarding the submission, you can add an “Extra check box for submission form?”, e.g. to ask for an acknowledgment of having accepted the publication terms and an “Extra text field for submission form?”, e.g. to ask for the research method used by the author or other additional information.

In the next section “Alternative deadlines of this type/track”, you can define deadlines different to the general deadlines. You can choose not to show the deadlines to authors and reviewers per contribution type / track in the option “Show deadlines?”. You can hide this contribution type / track on the page "Your Submissions" and disable submission, editing and uploads by unchecking “Enabled”, regardless of any phase activated.

The next section deals with "Upload Settings for This Contribution Type / Track". For "Number of uploads required for this contribution type per submitted contribution" select from zero (no uploads required) to three uploads. If you disable uploads, make sure that you have enabled "Abstract". Don't forget to include some hints that will be displayed to authors in the field(s) "User Information for File No. X ". Continue to define the file types via the option "File Extensions for File No. X". You can define who later will be allowed to download uploaded files in the section "Download Settings". Use the option "Accessibility of File No. X" for that purpose. When you enable the expert settings at the bottom of the page, the sub-section "Further Upload Settings" will appear and you will be able to define the "Upload Options for File No. X" (allow only new uploads, allow only file updates or close the upload slot altogether). This function is for instance useful if you want to allow authors to upload selected files only (e.g. let them upload presentation files, but not update the original submission).

In the sub-section "Settings for Final Uploads" you also define the number of uploads for the final version (camera-ready copy). The final upload phase is used after the review process, and only authors with accepted submissions are allowed to upload a final version. In the sub-section "File Types" enter the file extensions for all relevant uploads. The two options "Accessibility of File No. X" and "Further Upload Settings" (see description above) exist for final uploads as well.

In the sub-section “Download Settings” you decide whether you want to make the uploaded files accessible to users, reviewers and PC members. This setting is valid during different phases of the conference: You can for instance use it during the review process to specify that the files are available to reviewers and later on also to normal users on the conference agenda page.

The penultimate section "Review Options" deals with review settings specific only to the current submission type / conference track: Some conference organizers prefer if reviewers can see the name and organization of the authors – simply uncheck the box for “Double Blind Review” in this case. (Authors can still not see the names of the reviewers!). If “Bid for Contributions” is enabled, reviewers can indicate their preferred papers and conflicts of interest.

The option Enter and Edit Reviews” can be disabled, e.g. to allow invited speakers to upload their presentation without considering them for peer review. The “Online Forum for the Program Committee” can also be enabled for each contribution type / track individually. It allows users with the status “program committee member” to access and discuss all submissions online.

The option Review Results” allows you to disable the display of the reviews to authors. If disabled, only the status of the result (e.g. “Rejected” or “Accepted”) will be shown to authors, while the rating and the comments to authors will not be displayed.

Finally, check the available options in the section “Further Settings”.The “Class name of submission form” gives you four options to define the submission form for authors. The default setting “Detailed” will be sufficient for most conferences. Choose “Applications” for a simple form. It can for instance be used for applications for a scholarship or summer school grant. The author will only be able to submit a contribution including one author name, one organization, only an abstract, and topics and keywords, if enabled. Choose “Symposium” if your conference is split into several symposiums and authors are to enter an idea for a part of the conference. This includes suggesting chair members and also a number of symposium papers. “Roundtable” can be used for proposals for panel discussions, including information about the presenters or discussants and chairs or moderators. You will find further information in the forum: Submission forms: Detailed, Symposium, Application, Roundtable.

The “Class name of review form” will give you several options in what detail the reviewers will have to grade the submissions. Please refer to Configuration of the Review Forms in ConfTool Pro for additional information.

Finally, the input field for “Comments for the authors” in the reviewing form can be made mandatory (default setting), optional or be fully disabled (activate the expert settings on the bottom of the page for this option to appear).

3.4. Acceptance Status

The acceptance status is mainly needed as final part of the reviewing process, nonetheless understanding the concept is essential to the set-up of the submission module. The acceptance status is usually set by the chair(s) and is based on the recommendations made by the reviewers. The status defines for instance if a contribution is rejected, accepted or if it needs revision

However, in a conference with several review phases, the status can also define that an abstract was first accepted (“Accepted – Abstract”) but then rejected as a full paper (“Rejected – Full Paper”). Any “Accepted” status might be further divided into submission types, e.g. “Accepted – Oral Presentation”, “Accepted – Full Paper” and “Accepted – Poster Presentation”. You can also use the acceptance status to mark certain papers: For instance distinguish between preliminary accepted papers for which authors have not yet paid their registration fees (“Accepted – Unpaid”) and papers for which at least one of the authors has registered for participation and paid the fees (“Accepted – Paid”).

Please go to:
Overview => Settings => Manage Acceptance Status
Here, you can define different statuses and the options of each status. The system provides several frequently used examples like “Accepted”, “Rejected” and “With Reservations”. You might have to add more acceptance statuses like “Accepted as Oral Presentation” or “Abstract Accepted – Upload Full Paper”. To define such new statuses, we recommend to use an existing status with similar parameters and to copy it, so you just need to update the wording.

Please note: “On Hold” is the default status and will not be shown to authors. Choose a status other than “On Hold” to show the review results to authors.

You find more information about setting the acceptance status for proposals here: Evaluating the Review Results and Setting the Acceptance Status of Submissions.

Image 13: Create, edit and delete acceptance statuses
Image 14: Edit options for each acceptance status
Image 15: Set acceptance statuses based on reviewers' evaluations
Image 16: Review results - author's view